“Who is Coming to Dinner?”

Have you ever been invited to a really nice dinner party or banquet? Those are special events. Aren't they? We look forward to going and being with others. Now, such occasions are usually times to enjoy some good food and fellowship. After it is over however, we think about the need to return the favor. We consider how we might host a dinner party or a meal for the one who invited us; and, that is the usual and kind thing to do. However, Jesus teaches us to take a different approach. If we want to follow in His footsteps and to grow as one of His disciples, He asks us to look for other people to invite, who are unable to return the favor. He asks us to consider those who may be left out and overlooked. Oh, for many of us, that is a challenging thing to do. Well, in our lesson today on "Key to the Kingdom," we will study a story Jesus tells to some people who assemble for a special meal. As we look at it, I encourage us to put ourselves in the place of those who first heard it. As we do, let us consider what approach we need to take, when it comes to hosting a dinner party or blessing those who are overlooked and neglected. For the next few minutes, I trust this message will cause us to carefully consider how we can grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. I hope it will help open our eyes to some people living near us who are not as privileged or blessed, and to extend a hand of compassion and love. Join us now, as we study together, from God's Word.

In the middle chapters of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus invites those, who follow Him, into a deeper level of discipleship. He shares several stories, or what we might call parables, which teach us what it really means to be one of His disciples. Now, in some of those, He leaves it up to us as to how we need to respond, or how we need to make some changes in order to be that disciple. Well, in Luke chapter 4, we find two such parables, or stories, along with some additional teaching. Let's notice what happens here in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14. One Sabbath day, Jesus was invited to a feast, or a meal, in the home of a rich Pharisee. Now, many of the translations identify him as a rich, or a wealthy, ruler; but, he invited Jesus to come and to share a meal with him. He also invited a number of other people, who were like himself. They too were rich and wealthy, perhaps even Pharisees. One of the reasons why this man invited Jesus was so that he could entrap Him or, catch Him in saying or doing something that went against their traditions or customs. And so, they watched Jesus very closely. They listened to every word He said, in hopes they might pick up on something that was not quite right, and therefore identify Him as a false teacher, or a false prophet. Now, oftentimes, in early Jewish tradition, the host would sit in the corner. His special guest would sit near his right hand. And then, everyone else who was invited would scramble around to find the next best available seat. And, that is what was happening on this particular occasion. Everybody was trying to enhance their reputation and get that seat next to Jesus, or next to the host. Oh, all of these things were taking place and Jesus saw what was happening. He witnessed all of the commotion going on, as they were trying to eat this meal, and Jesus was watching them just as closely as they were watching Him. And as He observed these things, He shares with them the first story, or parable. It is found in Luke 14 beginning with verse 7. <When He noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, He told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest seat, that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”> As Jesus and the people eat this meal, He criticizes His host and those other people invited. He sees what is going on and He says that's not the way it is supposed to be. Rather, you are not to think too highly of yourself. In fact, you may be the only one who is thinking about you. But, rather, humble yourself. Take the lowest seat. Allow the host to move you up and to recognize you as someone important. And, that was a real challenge for these people because they thought too highly of themselves. Well, Jesus then teaches something very important and very true, in regards to the parable He has just told. That teaching is found in the next few verses here in the 14th chapter. Listen to verses 12 through 14. <Then Jesus said to His host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or even your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”> You know, Jesus states that it is quite easy to invite your relatives and your rich friends to such a dinner party or a banquet feast. In fact, that might have been what this rich ruler, this rich Pharisee, was doing. Perhaps he was paying these people back for an occasion when he was in their home and enjoyed one of their meals. Or perhaps he was doing this in hopes that he would be invited to one of their homes at a later date. The challenge comes, however, when you invite people who are not like you to such a dinner feast, or a meal. Invite the poor and the lame and the crippled and the blind. Invite those people who are unable to pay you back, because they have no food, or, because they have no home in which to live. Yes, Jesus makes a very important point; and that is, to think about those who are less fortunate and minister to them. Now, in order to illustrate that teaching, He offers a second parable; and that is found in chapter 14 verses 16 through 20. <Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go to see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’ Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can not come.’"> When Jesus lived upon the earth, it was customary to offer two invitations to a banquet, or a meal. The first invitation came when the host sent out his servant and invited those whom he wanted to attend. The answer came back, either yes or no. They knew that particular day, perhaps, and that was all; and, they gave that initial commitment. And that way the host knew exactly how many people to prepare for and how much food to buy. Oh he did not want any food wasted, and certainly he did not want to run short, if everyone showed up. The second invitation came then, when everything was ready. The host had prepared the meal, it was sitting on the table, and he wanted the people to show up. He wanted the people to come and to enjoy the banquet feast. And, that's what happens next. The servant goes out and he makes the announcement: The time is now, come and enjoy this great feast. And we find that these three people offered excuses as to why they could not show up; and, they were probably lies. They were intentional rejections. For example, who buys a field before seeing it? Who purchases some oxen and doesn't even know whether or not they can work together? Who just gets married and yet, accepts an invitation to such a banquet feast? You know, excuses or lies like that might sound something like this, today: "Well, I need to text my wife to let her know I have just purchased a house over the phone, and I need to go see it." Or who says, "Well, I just bought a tractor without seeing it, and I am on my way to that farm to see if that tractor really exists and if there is an engine in it." Or perhaps, we might say, "I just got married recently, and I would rather spend time with her than with you." Now, in the first two of those rejections, the people say, "Please have me excused." Yet, in this last one, it is a rather crude and rude statement. And, he does not want to be a part of that banquet feast. Well, these excuses were designed to ruin the rich man's banquet. Their possessions were more important to them than anything else. You know, one of the great challenges we face, as disciples of Jesus Christ, today, is to allow our possessions and our wealth to get in the way of accepting an invitation to be Jesus' disciple; and, this story is designed to help us think about how we view our wealth and our possessions. Do we view those as things that we want to do for ourselves, or do we use those as tools to help bless and encourage other people? Well, let's go back to the ending of the story. We find it in verses 21 through 24. <“The servant came back and reported this to the master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’ ‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’ Then the master told the servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”> As the servant comes back and reports to him what has happened, the host is angry; he is upset. He realizes that those excuses are nothing more than insults, and perhaps even lies; and he doesn't want to hear it. So, he tells the servant, "Go out and invite the lame and the poor and those who are homeless to come in to my banquet, so that that food will not be wasted and my banquet hall will be filled." Well, instead of retaliating, the host in the story does what Jesus has just taught. He fulfills the teaching in verses 12 through 14 as he invites other to attend, who will be unable to pay him back. And then, as those people are there, still there is room, and the invitation goes out to those people living in the back alleys, to those traveling on the roads. Yes, the host wants his food to be consumed. He wants to enjoy and share fellowship with as many as possible. You know, it's interesting, as Jesus tells the story, the backdrop to it is found in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. No doubt, these Pharisees, assembled there in the home, knew the story. Listen to what Isaiah writes in chapter 25, beginning with verse 6. <On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine, the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain He will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; He will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; He will remove His people’s disgrace from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in Him, and He saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in Him; let us rejoice and be glad in our salvation.”> Isaiah dreams of a great banquet that will be held at the end of time. The Lord, Himself, will spread out the banquet and He, Himself, will serve the people. That banquet will be held on the Holy Mountain of the Lord, and guests will be there from all peoples and from all nations. Death will be no more, tears will be wiped away, and it will be a glorious day of Salvation. Well, as Jesus tells these stories and offers these teachings, no doubt, the Pharisees reflect back on Isaiah chapter 25. By putting all of this together, Jesus is saying, you are the ones who will be left out, you are the ones who have accepted that first invitation of the Lord, and yet, you are not going to be able to be there at that great banquet feast at the end of time. Instead, other people will come from all different directions. And, they will be there, at that banquet table, and they will enjoy the presence of the Lord and His Salvation. And we can just envision how that will take place, as we go over to the book of Revelation and read that in chapters 21 and 22. You know, it's interesting to me, as I look at what happens in Luke 14, that Jesus was even invited in the first place. Oh, Jesus did not fit in very well with the Pharisees. He was not like them. He ministered to the poor. He reached out to those who were lonely and broken and hurting and diseased. In fact, He even touched a crippled man, and healed him on that Sabbath day, as He was going to that meal in the Pharisee's home. No, Jesus really doesn't fit in this story, it seems; doesn't it? In Luke's Gospel, this is what Jesus does: He reaches out to the poor and to the women and to the abused and to those who are overlooked. And yet, here we find Jesus, in the home of a rich Pharisee. We find Him sharing a meal with others, who are wealthy, and talking to them and relating to them. And, what does that tell us? Does it not say that Jesus is able to relate to both the rich and the poor? Does it not say that Jesus is able to understand and minister to those who are wealthy and to those who do not have very much? Yes, Jesus is able to relate to people no matter what their situation is, in life. And, that's what He does. Well, there are many observations that we can make, and a number of lessons that we can learn from Jesus' teachings and parables. I want to offer a few, for our consideration. The first one is this: Many who accept the first invitation will reject the second invitation. You know, oftentimes, it is easy for us to say, "Yes, I'm going to follow the Lord." It might be easy to say, "Yes, I want Jesus Christ to be my Savior, and I'm going to be His disciple." And yet, when it comes right down to it, to following through with that commitment, we might say, "No, I don't think I want to do that." And, we come up, perhaps, with some kind of excuse as to why we cannot. And, that's the way it is; isn't it? And yet, that teaches us to accept, not only, the first, but also the second invitation, and to make that full commitment to be His disciple. But then, secondly, we notice that Jesus' invitation is open to everyone. It is especially open to those who are neglected. It is offered to those who are poor, to those who are abused and blind and lame and those, perhaps, who are neglected and kicked to the side by the world. And, isn't that good news? Oftentimes, those people are neglected and they have no hope. They have no meal to look forward to. They have no fellowship with other people. And yet, Jesus comes along, through His teaching, and He says, "You are special; and, I want you to be a part of that great banquet feast." Here's another thought, people cannot participate in the great banquet if they do not show up. Well, that's obvious; isn't it? None of us can participate in the great banquet feast of the Lord, for all time, at the end of time, if we're not there, if we say "no" to the invitation that Jesus offers to us. Oh, God will continue to go on and He will invite other people to be a part of that banquet. He will have other people from all nations and peoples from around the world to come and to share that banquet feast, so that His banquet hall will be full; and, He invites all, and He welcomes all who say "yes" to that invitation. And then, here is one final thought: Rejecting God's invitation only harms ourselves. When we say "no" to God's invitation, when we reject the opportunity to be with Him at that banquet feast, we are the ones who suffer. We are the ones who are left out and overlooked. And, God will replace us with those who are overlooked, even now; and, He will receive and welcome them into that great fellowship, at the end of time. Now, those are just some observations I believe that we can see, right here, from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 14, and Isaiah's teaching, from Isaiah, chapter 25; many lessons that we can learn; many things that we can hopefully apply to our very own lives, today. Following Jesus calls us into a deeper level of discipleship, by blessing those who are overlooked and neglected by this world. And, that seems to be one of the primary points that Jesus makes in these two parables, and in this teaching. You know, perhaps, one of the best ways that we can demonstrate to Jesus, and the rest of this world, that we are serious about following Him and being His disciple is to live a life of humility and to find ways where we can be a blessing to those whom God puts into our life. And that is the challenge that Jesus leaves with us, today, as we think about being His disciple. How do we use our wealth? How do we minister to the people that are overlooked in this world? And then, will we be able to say "yes" to Him, and show up, when we are invited to that great banquet feast in Heaven? I encourage you to be challenged by the words of Jesus and to apply them to your own life.

Have you ever been invited to a fancy dinner in a very special restaurant? Oh, perhaps, we all have. And yet, when we go there, we feel totally out of place, and we look around and we see others who feel the very same way. Then, when we leave, we feel somewhat of an obligation to invite those same people into our home, or to host a dinner on their behalf, in order to repay them for the kindness they have done to us. Certainly, that would be a good thing to do. Yet, Jesus seems to take a different approach. He encourages us to think about those who cannot pay us back, for something good done for them. He invites us to invite someone into our home, or to host a party on their behalf, who is overlooked and less fortunate and poor. That's hard for us to do; isn't it? That's a challenge that Jesus wants us to wrestle with and accept, to lift up our eyes and see the overlooked and neglected and poor people living all around us, and then to do something on their behalf; and, they won't repay us, but to bless them in some special way and to let them know that they are loved and they are appreciated. Proverbs 14 verse 21 says, "Blessed is he who is kind to the poor." I would encourage you to be kind to someone who is poor or overlooked or neglected, today. Think about doing something for them, which will make a difference in their life. And, don't worry about being paid back, because God sees what you are doing and He will reward you.

Thank you for watching this latest message from God's Word. On the road of discipleship it is sometimes challenging to live as Jesus has called us to live. Well, this story challenges us to consider how we respond to the people God puts into our life. If you would like to view or listen to it again, please go to our website: keytothekingdom.com. There you can download it in a variety of formats. There are many other resources, which might be of interest. Bible studies, short video messages, and daily devotional thoughts are all provided at no cost. You might be interested in our statement of belief, or a number of other things we offer. In addition to those things, you can find and like us on Facebook. A number of people have already done so and follow us on a regular basis. We have a dedicated channel on Roku® Television, as well. And, finally, why not download the free app for your smartphone. Through it, you can access every aspect of this mission effort. Remember, there is never any cost or obligation for anything we offer. So, please, feel free to visit us at keytothekingdom.com. For additional help or information about this mission effort, please do not hesitate to call the number on the screen. We will be happy to assist you in any way possible. Again, thank you for taking a few minutes to join us for today's broadcast. I do hope you will join us again next week, at this same time, as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."